Mike Lord

Mike Lord

4th generation Santa Fe Gringo.

Friday, 16 October 2020 16:01

Tomás Chacón, Frontier Scout and Pioneer

One of the tragedies and ironies of the way history is written is that we seldom hear much about the real frontiersmen who did so much to make New Mexico the fascinating place it is today. If you look through the shelves of books and articles on scouts and so called frontiersmen, you will probably not find the name of Tomás Chacón. Yet, numerous documents and reports of the period show that for more than tree decades, he was one of northern New Mexico's most sought after interpreters and guides.

We know little about Chacóns early life. The records of Abiquiu baptisms show one Tomás de Jesus Chacón was baptized on December 23, 1793, the son of Jose Antonio Chacón and Maria Juana Guadalupe Archuleta. If this baptismal record is the correct one, for the Tomás Chacón of frontier New Mexico fame, then it is likely he is the same person listed in the 1850 United States census for Rio Arriba County at age 59 with his wife Maria and three children.

During his life along the rugged frontier of northwestern New Mexico, Tomás Chacón developed an intimate relationship with the Utes of that region. That relationship and his role in society is reflected in the baptismal records of Santo Tomás Apostol de Abiquiú. Between 1832 and 1841, there are at least eight baptisms of Ute children listed as "servants of Tomás Chacón." This clearly indicates that he, like many of his time, was deeply involved in the trade and raising of cautivos (captive Indian children), that was so prevalent in New Mexico at the time.

Chacón begins to show up frequently in contemporary historical records of 1850. That year he served as a guide and interpreter for the William Angny expedition that traveled to California over the Old Spanish Trail. The journal of this expedition notes that his "intimate acquaintance with the Ute Territory and it's wild inhabitants and their language was of no small service to us." Daniel Jones's book "Forty Years Among the Indians" chronicles the same journey. He credits "Old Thomas" with seeing them through close calls because he was always able to "talk the Indians into peace." Jones credits Chacón with saving his life on more than one occasion.

In 1851 Chacón is reported trading with the Indians along the San Juan River. That same year he led the pursuit of a band of Jicarilla Apaches who raided Abiquiú and El Rito. His knowledge of their language was instrumental in return of livestock the Jicarilla had taken from the settlements.

Tomás Chacón also played a prominent role in the William Arny expedition that negotiated a treaty with the Utes at the San Juan River in 1868. Chacón not only served as the guide and interpreter for the expedition, but appears as one of the witnesses and signatories of the treaty Arny negotiated with the Utes. What may be best known about this 1868 expedition is the photograph taken of Arny with a group of Ute and Jicarilla leaders. The photograph shows Chacón peering from the back row between two Ute chiefs. A woodcut of that famous photograph that appeared in the August 22, 1868 issue of Harper's Weekly illustrates the earlier story of Sobita, the Ute chief.

The final entry I have found for Tomás Chacón is the service he provided as the interpreter for the US Army when they attempted to negotiate an agreement with Sobita and his Capote band of Utes at Las Nutrias (present day Tierra Amarilla) in 1872. When negotiations broke down, the commanding officer sent Chacón to talk to Sobita and convince him to return. One report indicates that this time, Chacóns power of persuasion apparently failed. The angry Utes "horsewhipped" Chacón and sent him back to inform the troops that they wanted to fight. The pitched battle between the Utes and the US cavalry that ensued eventually led to the capitulation of the Utes and their removal to a reservation in Colorado.

Tomás Chacón disappears from the historical record after 1872. If he was in fact born in 1793, Chacón was nearly 80 years old when called into his final service for the US government. He did his duty, returned to his home in the Abiquiú region and quietly melted into undeserved anonymity. In his own time, Tomás Chacón was as well known as any of the more famous personages of frontier New Mexico. I hope his descendants (of which I am one) realize the important role he played in our history.

From the book: UFO's over Galisteo and other stories of New Mexico's History

Tomás Chacón is #12 in this photo.

Saturday, 26 September 2020 17:16

Diné Autumnal Equinox

Yá'át'ééh Aak'ei! Aak'eego Hoo'ah! Today is the Autumnal Equinox which signals the first day of the fall season. The celestial stars above and sun shows us that the cold time is coming. The Yeii are now practicing for the upcoming Tłéjé Hatáał (The Nine Night Chant Ceremony), Dinétah will soon be blessed once again with the dancing and singing of our Diné Deities. This is the time when Náhasdzáán Shimá prepares to rest and certain animals prepare for hibernation, the summer ceremonies are still taking place but will soon be coming to an end for the season. Our Diné Winter stories and ceremonies are around the corner! Enjoy the last part of our harvest season, Shi Diné'é!

Friday, 25 September 2020 18:24

Diné Piñon Oral History


Neeshch’íí’ (Pinon) has a special story coming from our Dine oral stories as it relates to White Shell Woman, also known as Changing Woman. When White Shell Woman returned home to the West she left behind Pinons for the people and animals to eat as part of their food intake. The Pinons resembles the nipple part of the breast of White Shell Woman, and the seed inside resembles the milk coming from her breast that then feeds the people/animals with nutrition and a good health. There are many other Navajo/Tribal stories in relations to Pinons, but this is one that I was once told.


Also, when picking we were instructed to never shake the Pinon trees, and that only the bears were allowed to shake the trees for Pinons. It is said, that when people eat Pinons from the trees that were shaken down the people will become stubborn, impatient, and easily angered. They say their behavior will then begin to resemble that of a bear. Maybe this explains why our people have behavioral issues and mental health conditions today? Just a food for thought.


In addition, there are proper ways to picking Pinons, such as one may use a thin branch to tap gently at the tree for a few pinons to fall, but not to much. Also, we are told to never lay down when picking pinons and only bears lay down when getting pinons. Just to add, when you shake and break off branches and the pine cones this effects the seasonal crops causing the Pinon trees to take a longer time period to redevelop its branches and pine cones were Pinons grow. So be aware on how you go about picking.


I hope everyone enjoys this time of the season. I just wanted to share a few stories related to Pinon season and picking that I got to learn from different people over the years. Also, please continue to follow safety precautions by practicing social distancing, use proper sanitization and PPE (if needed), and clean up after yourself after picking!




Wednesday, 01 July 2020 16:02

Santa Fe Plaza Obelisk History


My View Oliver La Farge


Obelisk is a part of 'real' Santa Fe past


  • By Oliver La Farge
  • Jun 27, 2020


Top of Form


Bottom of Form


In the 1950s and early '60s, my father, Oliver La Farge, had a weekly column in The New Mexican under Robert McKinney. For those who have forgotten, by that time, my father had been fighting for Indian rights, for their decent treatment and for the honoring of treaties for decades. As an anthropologist and advocate, he was widely considered America's foremost authority on Indian society and culture, which is one reason he decided to live in New Mexico, aside from the fact it was my mother's ancestral home.

The question of the obelisk first came up in the 1950s. This is what he had to say in 1961, taken from the book of his columns, The Man with the Calabash Pipe, edited by poet Winfield Townley Scott.

John Pen La Farge


"Some Folklore and a Monument"

From several sources I hear of a peculiar folklore of misinformation about the obelisk in the center of the Plaza. It is important that the truth be made known …

One false belief is that the monument landed in the Plaza because it was unwanted and there was nowhere else to stick it. This is obviously absurd. The monument was authorized by the territorial Legislature to celebrate the outcome of two serious wars; its cornerstone was laid in November 1867, with great pomp and ceremony, and it was carefully placed in the most honorable spot in New Mexico, in the center of the capital's Plaza, fronting what was then both the governor's mansion and the territorial capitol.

The other is that this monument celebrates Anglo-American achievements and has no meaning to Spanish-Americans. This belief is also entirely false. Its currency shows that too many of our Spanish-Americans have forgotten a proud chapter in their own history.

The monument is dedicated on two sides to those who died in the Civil War fighting for the Union, on the third side to those who died fighting the "savage Indians," meaning Navajos and Apaches.

Both wars were fought simultaneously. At the beginning of the Civil War, the bulk of regular army troops were withdrawn, to be replaced by volunteers. In short order New Mexico found itself in a pincers movement, with the Confederates striking from the southeast, the Navajos from the southwest, and the Mescaleros operating in between. … The bulk of the forces were Spanish-American, not only the enlisted men but the officers, of whom the highest was Lt. Col. J. Francisco Chaves.

 [V]olunteer they did, fought bravely against the "rebels" and provided the manpower that defeated them at Glorieta.

They went on fighting equally bravely under Chaves, Kit Carson, and others, in the long and difficult campaigns that pacified both the Mescaleros and the powerful Navajos, against whom the efforts of regulars had been unavailing …

On February 6, 1864, The New Mexican reported, "We have often and with much pleasure, received much warm recommendations … of volunteer (Spanish-American) soldiers … These men deserve high credit and consideration …"

Most of these men were born citizens of Mexico. In a time of crisis, they showed how completely they had adopted the United States … they established a glorious tradition, which they have continued in full force in the Spanish-American War, when they poured into the Rough Riders, the two World Wars, and the Korean War.

This, then, is what that little monument stands for. ...

I can see why a Texan might not be fond of this monument. A southerner or a Navajo might object to "rebel" and "savage" — expressions of the time, mementos of the honest feelings of that age. To Spanish-Americans, it should be one of their most cherished monuments, for it is they, above all, whom it celebrates.

Newcomers might be confused, but I am surprised that an old-timer … should think for a moment that the "savage Indians" referred to so sincerely … meant the Pueblos. So far as I know, hostilities with the Pueblos ended not long after the bloody (not "bloodless" as so often advertised) reconquest of New Mexico. From then until the Navajos were broken and signed the Treaty of 1868, Santa Fe and all New Mexico, including the Pueblos, were relentlessly harried, threatened with extinction, many settlements and pueblos wiped out by Navajos, Apaches, Kiowas, and Comanches…

These were the "savage Indians." No one even faintly conversant with New Mexico history could doubt to whom the territorial legislature was referring, or forget that Pueblo Indians were among the "heroes" who fought and are commemorated on the slab.

Under the Madison Avenue influence, we are getting to where we want even our history mad bland, sweetened, suited for consumption without any sensation whatsoever. The plaza monument is something else again, an authentic survival of frontier days, of the conditions of those times, of their simplicity and even other crudity.

You can decide to bury all traces of what Santa Fe once was and forget New Mexico's history was full of storms and violence. Personally, I prefer to keep a little of the real thing, to counterbalance the next ballet of whiskers and poke bonnets when we confuse our anniversaries with those of Square Corners, Ioway.

The monument refers to "savage Indians," it means exactly what it says, and furthermore, the term is accurate. That the white men … were often equally savage is beside the point…

The monument refers to "Rebels" in the same forthright manner….the word in their minds must have been "Tejanos". The common people of New Mexico were bitterly anti-Texan, hence devotedly pro-Union…

The monument is authentic, it is unpretentious, it is a true record of the important passage in New Mexico history. It is altogether too easy to brush such simple things aside, brushing our predecessors aside along with them…

For heaven's sake you who want to keep a little of the real Santa Fe, resist every move to remove these stones as you would resist having the bones of your ancestors ground into fertilizer for the capitol gardens.




Friday, 27 March 2020 00:41

Marbles in New Mexico

Joseph Ulibarri provided this photo from Las Vegas, NM.  He says: 

"The photo was taken by Nappy; the empty lot was behind what we call the Tru-Parts Building and is now Plaza Antiques. The photo was taken upstairs facing west. The building on the upper left is the Margarito Romero mansion. I'm thinking that the date is more likely mid 1940s. My Dad was born in 1926 and he looks like a young teenager. He's the tall one on the left-he wasn't that tall. His brother is on his right. The street is West National."

When I was in grade school in the mid 1950s, marbles was what we did when the weather permitted.  A 3 - 6 foot circle was drawn in the dirt.  Each player would place 5 marbles in the center of the circle in the form of an X.  To determine who went first, players would "lag" their shooters (which were larger and heavier than regular marbles) to a line drawn about 10 feet away.  Closest to the line went first, and the knuckles had to be on the ground, outside of the ring.  If the shooter knocked a marble out of the ring, he (girls never played) kept the marble and got another shot from where his shooter landed.  If no marble was knocked out of the ring, the shooter stayed where it landed and it was the next player's turn.  If a shooter was knocked out of the ring, that player was done and forfeited all of his marbles.  This continued until all of the marbles were gone.

Marbles had different names.  Cat eyes, puries, boulders, aggies, are what I remember.  There was a kid who's dad worked in an auto shop whose shooter was a ball-bearing called a steelie.  He could shatter glass marbles with that thing.

I understand that, in more genteel societies, marbles were played for fun and all marbles were returned to the original owners at the end of the game.  In Santa Fe, we played for keeps.  Always.  I lost way more than I won.

Marbles Los Alamos 1960

Bernardo C de Baca While I lived in the Agua Fria neighborhood. this was totally new to me. Corner of Agua Fria and Hickox...Anybody?


The Albino Perez monument, “a small boulder with a polished face and inscription lies enclosed within a rusting iron fence in the 1400 block of Agua Fria Street. The words carved in stone read: Governor Perez was assassinated on this spot on Aug. 9, 1837. Erected by sunshine Chapter, DAR, 1901”.

Celina Rael Garcia We grew up knowing what the marker was for. As kids walking home after dark we ran past the marker.

Celina Rael Garcia Several people told of El Hombre Largo. Have you heard that one? Folks had encounters with an apparition that carried a noose and as he approached you he grew to gigantic proportions. That was most common. Also back in the day when cars had running boards there was a man who swore that a figure jumped onto the running board as he was going down past the marker on Agua Fria, when he turned to look at it it had the face of a skeleton. The bar at the corner was owned by someone name Elias. Some of his customers told of encountering La Llorona there. I’ll try to dredge up more memories. Maybe I’ll publish something entitled Growing Up Scared Out Your Wits in Santa Fe.

Gloria Valdez I have one, or two Celina. You remember the big tree at the bottom of the hill going toward our house on Velarfe Lane (off Agua Fria)? Folks used to say that a man had been hanged there years back. Apparently, on occasion people said he would appear there. I'm happy to day I never saw him. But, at night going home I would run past that tree as fast as I could. Just in case he decided to make an appearance. Lol Also, since we lived right by the santa fe river, there were always takes of appearances by the Llorona. Again, I never saw her, but was always terrified she might appear.

Celina Rael Garcia Gloria Valdez I remember the tree. It was always so dark down the joya, we broke records running home after dark. The first time I heard the story of El Hombre Largo was from Lydia and Tomasa. They had gone to a movie at the Arco Theater on Hickox. As they walked home he appeared at the marker and grew taller as he approached them. They ran and somehow Tomasa lost her shoe and just left it. Both Lydia and Tomasa died in the past 5 years and I wish I’d recorded them telling the story.

Celina Rael Garcia Gloria Valdez Tomasa was over 100 when she passed, Lydia was close to 90.

Gloria Valdez Celina Rael Garcia my mom was a born story teller. She'd let us build a bonfire outside and roast corn on the cob and apples while she narrated her stories. Besides the hanged man and Llorona, she had many witches tales, which she said happened in the Pecos area. She and her sisters would hide and watch their goings on on the mountains above my Tia's house. While scary, we were always enthralled with her tales. Very interesting.

Josie Byers I was maybe 14,and my aunt Angelina and I had gone to the movies. We came home in a taxie,as she didnt h as ve a car. We got out of the cab,were opening the lock ,and we heard something wierd,like someone crying. We stood at the door and the crying got closer. It was scary cause we couldn't see anyone..anyway the crying sounded like it was coming down the street and we could hear it like it was passing right in front of us and passed and went down the street..
At that time it was when La Llorona was heard .

Josie Byers Celina Rael Garcia yes but this happen on Torcido street where my grampa lived .I dont think my auntie was married to Armando .

Celina Rael Garcia Josie Byers the Acequia Madre ran through there. There are a lot of Llorona sitings along the Acequia.

Josie Byers Celina Rael Garcia no Torcido is off Cerrillos road and goes to the street that goes to St Annes church and the next street is Agua Fria . The Y. I forgot te name of the street

Celina Rael Garcia Josie Byers the Acequia Madre runs from uptown all the way down to Siler Road. The arroyo that cuts through Torcido now Baca Street is the Acequia Madre.

Gloria Valdez People up and down Agua Fria claimed to have heard her. Never heard of anyone seeing her, tho.

Gloria Valdez Josie Byers once we were parked alongside the river at night (with boys) and we heard what appeared to be wailing. The boys claimed it was the Llorona. We all got scared and got away fast.

In January 1847, while serving as territorial governor, Charles Bent traveled to his wife's hometown of Taos, without military protection. There, on January 19, he was scalped alive and murdered in his home by a group of Taos Pueblo Indian attackers, under the orders of Mexican conspirators, who started the Taos Revolt.

His daughter, Teresina Bent Scheurich, later recalled the event:

"He was killed in January 19, 1847 about six in the morning.  We were in bed when the Mesicans and Indians came to the house breaking the doors and some of them were on the top of the house tearing the roofs, so we got up and father step to the porch asking them what they wanted and they answered him, we want your head gringo, we do not want for any of you gringos to govern us, as we have come to kill you.  Father told them what wrong have I done to you, when you come to me for help I always helped you and your familys.  I have cure you people and never charged you anything.  Yes, you did but you have to die now so that no American is going to govern us, then they commenced to shoot him with the arrows and guns, while he was talking to them.  Mother went to him and said why don't you jump on one of those horses that you have in the corral and go somewhere.  Father told her would not do for a Governor to run away and leave his family in danger, if they want to kill me, they can kill me here with my family.  Mrs. Carson and Mrs. Boggs, and an Indian slave dug a hole to the next house, so between the four women they took him where they had dig out the wall.  So he commence to put all of us children first then Mrs. Carson, Mrs. Boggs.  He wanted my mother to go next, but she told him, you go first, but when he was to go through the arrows that he had in his head hurt him so he pull them our, and crushed them against the wall so he went through the hole to the next house.  Then mother was going, and an Indian had found where they went, he was going to shoot Mama, but the slave woman stood in front of mother and the poor Indian was killed.  Then he struck mother on the back with the butt of the gun.  Father went with all of us to a little room, and he sat and took his memorando book, suppose he wanted to write something, but by that time the whole crowd of Mesicans and Indians got to the room where we were so they commence to shoot at him and scalp him and strip him of his clothes and when they killed him, some of the crowd wanted to kill all the family, but some of the Mesicans said, no, woman folks and children we must not kill, but we will not help them in anything. So they left us about three o'clock.  A man by the name of Manuel Gregorio Martin came to see us, and ask mother what are you going to do about the burial of the Governor and she said I have nobody to see about it.  I have no clothes for him nor nothing, so this man told her that he had a pair of trousers and a vest, so he went to his house and brought the clothes and then he went to see if he would find someone to make the coffin, so next day, he had the coffin and buried him.  So we stayed in the Lashones house for three days till Mrs. Catalina Lovato de Valdez sent for us.  Before we went a man by the name of Juan Bautista Vigil, one of the best to do gentlemen, use to come to the house of Lashones about three o'clock in the morning and brought us provisions and clothes as we did not have anything, as they stole everything from our house and all of us were with our night gowns.  We stayed at the house of Mrs. Valdez till the Americans came, that was 15 days after father was killed and the American soldiers got here the 3rd of February 1847 and they went to fight the Mesicans and the Indians the 4th of February, they killed about 250 there in the Pueblo, had 6 Mesicans hanging here in the middle of the Plaza and if I am not mistaken, 16 Indians were hung too somewhere near Mr. Phillip's studio.  At the same time that father was killed they killed here in town Shirif Luis Estaven Lee, Cornilio Vigil, mother's uncle, Provost judge Lawyer Leal, Pablo Jaramillo, mother's brother, and Narcizo Beaubien.  In Arroyo Hondo they killed Turley the owner of the Distelary and seven men more that were working there.

This is my recollections, as a child of 5 years"

From the original transcript.  Grammar, spelling, and punctuation not corrected

Wednesday, 13 November 2019 01:26

Francis Schlatter, The Healer

Healer and the Cross

By Alice Bullock
There was no ladder on the ranch, nor was there any white paint, but there was the ten-foot high Cross on the west wing of the Morley ranch house near Datil. It had not been there the day before, but the next morning, there it was. No footprints, no signs of activity of any kind – but the Cross, a heavy one, shone stark in the early morning sun. It was still there when the ranch house was moved several years later.
Mrs. Ada Morley, widow of the famed Maxwell Land Grant manager at Cimarron, later surveyor of the Santa Fe railroad over Raton Pass, chose not to tell her daughter Agnes until she came home from school on the west coast. When she drove the buggy up in front of the ranch house, daughter Agnes gasped. “Who did that?” she demanded, pointing to the huge Cross.
“We don’t know,” Mrs. Morley said quietly. “It appeared the morning after Francis Schlatter left.” There’s a long, fascinating story back of the name Schlatter.
Francis Schlatter was a big question, a highly controversial one in New Mexico in 1895-96. He showed up at the village of Peralta, south of Albuquerque, after walking through the Mojave Desert in mid-summer with only a small pail for water, a few pounds of flour, and the copper rod that he always carried. That rod 35 inches long, weighing slightly over 27 pounds, is now in the Museum of New Mexico.
He began healing all sorts of the ills that beset man – sight, hearing rheumatism, broken bones, stomach and intestinal disorders, heart troubles. Crowds formed wherever he was, and he healed some, failed with others. Long lines formed and he never accepted any recompense for his services. “I do what the Father commands,” he answered questions quietly.
Leaving the villages, he went to Albuquerque, and was promptly mobbed by seekers for relief from misery as well as curious non-believers. The newspapers, pro and con, printed daily stories, and his fame spread from coast to coast, with national coverage in newspapers and magazines.
From Albuquerque, he went on to Denver, and thousands waited in line for his ministrations. He stayed in the home of Alderman Fox, whom he had healed of a hearing deficiency. While there, he was given a gray horse, retired by the fire department. Mrs. Morley saw him in Denver, and believed in him.
On November 13, 1895, Fox entered The Healer’s (as he had become known) room when he did not appear at the usual time. He was gone with a note explaining, “Father has called me. I must go.”
There was a great furor, of course, for different cities had offered as much as $5,000 if he would come to them. Special trains of the sick and ailing were drawing into the Denver station. A search, such as is normally reserved for a dangerous criminal, was instituted. He could not be found. He had ridden the gray horse, but every clue turned out to be false.
Weeks later, he rode into the Morley ranch, an isolated, difficult one to find at the time, following a heavy snow. He accepted their hospitality with the proviso that his presence be kept a secret.
During the weeks spent at the ranch, he wrote an account of his wanderings and entrusted it to Mrs. Morley for publication. The print of his large feet in the corrals, his gray horse, caused speculation and people began to “drop by” in increasing numbers. He then told Mrs. Morley that he had to go on – down into Mexico.
His hostess tried to persuade him not to go, but he assured her that he would return, no matter what tales she might hear, for this was “The New Jerusalem.” Mrs. Morley believed him, saw that his manuscript was printed, and died waiting for Schlatter to come back.
A few years later Dr. Edgar L. Hewett, of the Museum of New Mexico, ran into the copper rod and the story of his [Schlatter’s] death on a lone hillside near Casas Grandes, in Mexico. The villagers sent the rod to Hewett in Santa Fe. Hewett writes about this in his book “Campfire and Trail.”
Agnes Morley (Cleveland) grew up and became well-known as a writer. She devotes a chapter of her book “No Life for a Lady” to The Healer. The huge Cross on the Morley two-story ranch home was never explained. Neither has The Healer been categorized firmly unto this day. Was he a divine healer? A fanatic who cannot be explained? Doctors at the time tried, but were unsuccessful in arriving at a consensus even among them. His history can be traced – nothing highly unusual until he began a long trek three years before his death, and it was only because of his healing from mid-1895 through November, when he left Denver, that he became nationally known, a mysterious man – and a mysterious cross on the wall of a New Mexico ranch house.
The Schlatter book, only three copies known to survive, gives no real clue. He was much better as a healer than a writer. Mrs. Cleveland’s daughter, Loraine C. Lavender, of Santa Fe, has permitted the Museum of New Mexico to replicate her copy so that it may be read there.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019 01:01

Don Ambrosio Armijo's Roof - By Paula Vallejos

“October 16. The century and year of 1898 (?) this roof was built by Don Ambrosio Armijo.”

If you’ve never seen this before it’s in Albuquerque's Old Town, just before you go into the Gorilla Graphix store. Look up. It’s very cool.

Friday, 20 September 2019 16:16

Don Francisco, the interpreter - by Chris Baca

Storytelling Time

When I was a little kid, maybe 5-7 years old, my father would entertain the family after supper by telling us stories of his growing up years in Las Nutrias. We’d sit around in the kitchen table after it had been cleaned up and and listen to him spin his tales. Usually, he’d be sipping a cup of coffee and was totally relaxed. The kitchen would be nice and warm because the old stove was still giving out heat from the lleña that had helped cook my mom’s delicious meal including freshly rolled tortillas. The yummy smells of the recent meal still lingered in the air.

In between sips of coffee he would begin the story. My favorite one was about a pompous villager who would like to lord his command of the English language over the less capable English speakers from Las Nutrias. This must have been around 1910 or so. In those days few people spoke English as Spanish had been spoken in the area since the late 1600s. The area had been settled after the reconquista of New Mexico. In any case, Don Francisco (the “smartest man” in the community) would strut around the village blurting out phrases in
English and asking “Saben lo que yo dije?” “Do you know what I just said?” Of course, no one did. They would shake their heads “No!” He would snort out “Pues es porque yo se mas que ustedes.” “Well, it’s because I know more than you do.” He would strut away with his chin in the air having once again asserted his superior knowledge over the commoners of the little village.

Well, one day, one of the revered elders of the village, Don Tomas Baca, got ill and the curanderas weren’t able to cure him. So it was decided that he had to be taken to the town of Belen to see the only doctor in the area. The young doctor only spoke English. This was about 15 miles away and he had to be driven there in a buckboard. Don Francisco, the most “competent” English speaker, was assigned to go with Don Tomas to interpret for him.

Once they got there Don Tomas began to be examined by the doctor and Don Francisco has to explain to the patient and doctor what was being said. “What are your symptoms?” “Tengo un dolor aquí,”. and pointed to his stomach. “I have a pain here.” Except Don Francisco interpreted “dolor” or “pain” as “dollar”. The doctor was astonished “He has a dollar there?” Yes, nodded Don Francisco. “Did he swallow a coin?” “El médico quiere saber si usted se comió una dolar de plata?” Don Tomas was confused “Este médico no sabe
nada. Esta loco! Que tipo de medico es este? De caballos?” “This doctor doesn’t know anything. He’s crazy! What is he? A horse doctor?” The doctor continued his examination and told Don Francisco to tell Don Tomas to take off his clothes. The old man was hesitant but he was in a lot of pain so he disrobed and the doctor began poking and probing still wondering why Don Tomas had  swallowed a silver dollar. He worked his way down to his nether region and told him he was going to check for a hernia and needed to check his groin. “El médico piensa que tiene algo mal con sus huevos!” Don Tomas was frantic. What could possibly be wrong with his balls. Yes, they had shriveled a bit with age but they were quite functional in his mind. However, because he was in such pain he conceded to the request and the doctor asked Don Francisco to tell Don Tomas to turn his head and cough. “Que me está diciendo? No quiero que me toque los huevos!” “What is he saying? I don’t want him to touch my balls!” Don Francisco misinterprets cough as coffee so he says “Se me hace que le dice que toma mucho café!” “I think the doctor is telling you that you drink too much coffee.
Apparently, he can tell your drinking too much coffee by the weight of your balls!”

By then we were all laughing, tears rolling down our eyes. My dad would end the story by saying “Se le acabó el Ingles a ese pendejo, Don Francisco!” In essence “Don Francisco, the dumb ass, ran out of English!”

Obviously the pompous Don Francisco got his comeuppance when he got back to the village somewhat chagrined that he wasn’t as fluent in English as he thought. And Don Tomas was angry because he had been “manhandled” and couldn’t drink coffee anymore.

Story telling was and is an art form. My dad was an awesome story teller. We didn’t have a radio or TV so he was our entertainment.

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